Thursday Movie Picks #61: TRAIN Scenes

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

TRAIN Movies

For this month’s theme, instead of going with a film that’s set entirely or even mostly inside trains, I’m going to post three memorable train scenes in movies. The train is also a key part in the film so I think that would count.

So without further ado, here are my picks:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards’ Prison and is coming after Harry.

This is possibly my favorite Harry Potter film and if you’ve seen any of the films, obviously the Hogwarts Express plays a key role in the story. So there are many great train scenes, but this one is perhaps one of the most memorable ones. The Dementors are just so creepy!

I love the Hogwarts Express, they made it one of the main feature in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida. It’s one of my fave rides when I was over there last Spring.

SNOWPIERCER

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

The entire film is set inside the train and it’s definitely one of the most memorable films set inside a train, as well as one of the best futuristic sci-fis. There are many scenes here to choose from, and I like a lot of the scenes with Tilda Swinton, but if I have to choose only one memorable scene, I have to go with this axe battle. I mean how many axe battles actually happen inside a train? So the small space definitely makes the brutality even more potent!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

I don’t love this movie, I think the first film is better but still it’s enjoyable thanks to the great bromance between Sherlock and Watson. The train sequence is particularly fun and action-packed. Robert Downey Jr. definitely relish on this over-the-top role and the constant bantering between him and Jude Law is what makes this movie watchable.

 

BONUS PICK

Mission Impossible (1996)

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

Well technically this scene isn’t inside a train but on top of one. Well, every Mission Impossible film has to have one ridiculously preposterous action stunt and THIS is definitely the highlight. Even compared to the crazy plane scene of the latest movie, this one still gets my blood going.

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What do you think of these train scenes? Which train movie scene(s) are your favorites?

FlixChatter Double Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

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Ted’s Review

After last summer’s mediocre Elysium, I wasn’t that interested in seeing another sci-fi/action picture about the poor vs. the rich set in the future. Heck even after I saw the trailer, I sort of didn’t really want to see this new film from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong at all. But thanks to so many great reviews from critics, I’ve decided to check it out and I’m so glad I did. I think it’s my favorite film of 2014 so far.

The film opens with a prologue explaining what has happened to earth. A failed global-warming experiment has killed off pretty much all living things on the planet and only the few survivors are now living in a train that can travel all over the globe. In this train, there are two classes of people, the rich and the poor. The rich gets to live in the fancy front side of the train and all of the poor folks have to stay in the back. Of course the living conditions on the back of the train is horrendous. We’re introduced to two friends Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell), right away we know they’re planning to attack their oppressors and get to the front side so they can have control of the train. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the film, Curtis and his followers battles their way into each car of the train to get to the front side. The message about our current economics system gets a little heavy handed at times but I wasn’t bothered by it as much. Yeah I know the 1% is living large while the rest of us have to suffer and so on. Basically everything that Elysium did wrong, this film got it right.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but Chris Evans has starred in two of my favorite movies of the year, the other one being Captain America: Winter Soldier. I was never a fan of his before and now I think he’s grown as actor. As the lead in another action picture, he did a good job of commanding the screen, we don’t know much about Curtis until the film’s climax and the payoff worked for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Jamie Bell in anything since the dreadful Jumper, here he’s the sidekick/comic relief and I think he did alright. Tilda Swinton looked like she had a blast playing another villainous role, I would’ve liked to see more of her character in the movie though. John Hurt played a minor role as the old mentor to Curtis and the rest of the poor folks and he’s your typical father figure type. I think I’ve seen him played this kind of role so many times that I knew what to expect from his performance. Scenes stealer belongs to South Korea actor Song Kang-ho, he was recruited by Curtis and his team because he invented the train’s door security system and he’s their key to their success. For those who’ve seen Bong’s previous work, you know that Song is his go to actor and here he didn’t disappoint. Another well known actor showed up as the train inventor and main villain, I thought he was quite effective. I don’t want to mention his name since I think most people don’t know he’s in the movie and I think it’s better for people to find out for themselves.

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To me the main reason this film worked was because of Joon-ho Bong‘s direction. He was able to elevate a silly concept and made into something that kind of original and fun to watch. The film’s actually based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige. Bong co-wrote the script with Kelly Masterson (she wrote Sidney Lumet’s last film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead), the story had me on the edge of my seat throughout and I like the fact that they didn’t chicken out and end the film in a Hollywood fashion. Bong staged some cool action set pieces, including a brawl between Curtis’ gang and the rich folks’ army and unusual shootout between Curtis and one of the villains. For anyone who’s never seen Bong’s other films, you might find his style a little weird and un-Hollywood like. I also think he pay homage to Sam Peckinpah for this film, in fact I thought had Peckinpah ever made a sci-fi picture, it would be like this one. For a film that cost less than $40mil, the visual effects looked pretty great. I can only imagine what his next film will look like if Bong gets a budget of $150-200mil.

After witnessing the atrocious Transformers 4 a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to have seen this excellent film. It’s smart, exciting and well paced. It surely will be on my top favorite films of the year, this one comes highly recommended.

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Ruth’s Review

Science fiction thriller set in post-apocalyptic world is a dime a dozen. Seems that Hollywood is quite obsessed with this sub-genre, even young adult fares are set in this dystopian future, often with a hero/heroine who’s destined to change the world. Thankfully, Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer manages to set itself apart from the pack. This is my intro into Bong’s work, and it’s also his first Hollywood film. I’ve blogged about the furor over Harvey’s Weinsteins constant meddling with the film’s cut last year, so finally, after waiting for over two years, I got to see this on the big screen.

What strikes me right away about this film is how bleak it is. Bong’s imagined future has that gritty, soiled and grimy look as we’re shown how the poor, unfortunate souls have been living the past 17 years in the tail section of a rackety train, Snowpiercer. Given that earth is now inhabitable due to a cataclysmic accident that renders everything frozen, the train has to keep running nonstop with what’s left of humanity on board. Having been oppressed for nearly two decades with no chance to escape, it’s no wonder the lower class is hellbent on revolt. It’s futuristic Les Misérables set on a train. It’s an intriguing concept surely, but that alone doesn’t always translate to an intriguing film (Ted’s mentioned Elysium and I’d also add In Time  which are more action/adventure than a true sci-fi). Snowpiercer on the other hand, has a nice balance of action and character-driven sequences, and it’s not reliant on special effects to thrill the audience.

I have to admit it’s not the most entertaining film I’ve seen, and at times it’s too violent for my taste. It’s not as graphic as I feared it would be but I still think it’s not for the faint of heart. But I appreciate Bong’s bold vision and the way that Snowpiercer doesn’t glamorize the post-apocalyptic world, which enhances its sense of realism. Despite the fantastical concept, at times it made me think how this bleak reality might not be so far-fetched after all. The geopolitical and socio-economic allegory can be in-your-face at times so I could see why some critics have called it heavy-handed. But overall the pace of the film is good and the slow moments are a welcome relief from all the brutality. I especially like Chris Evans‘ emotionally-charged monologue towards the end which gives us a glimpse into what’s really at stake for the rebels. The confined space of a train gives a heightened sense of claustrophobia that makes everything even more suspenseful. The more we learn about the world within Snowpiercer, the more we realize that nothing is what it seems. There are genuine surprises as well that keeps you on your toes. Just when you think things are calming down, Bong would suddenly pulls the rug from under us! Unlike lot of action films that are loud, bombastic but lacking genuine tension (basically what Bayhem is all about), this one gives me a real adrenaline rush.

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The international cast is full of inspired casting. Interesting to see Chris Evans in the role of the protagonist. He’s a flawed, reluctant hero, the polar opposite of Captain America, though Evans retains that sympathetic guy-next-door persona even bloody and covered in dirt the entire film. Having seen him in Puncture, I knew he’s got dramatic chops, so I hope he makes wiser role choices from now on so we can see more of what he can deliver. Tilda Swinton once again delivers her chameleonic turn as Minister Mason, a role that’s originally written as a mild-mannered man. The most memorable characters to me are the South Korean father/daughter duo played by Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, both have worked with Bong before in The Host. It’s nice to see Ed Harris in a key role, he definitely makes an impact despite his brief appearance. Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer round up the solid supporting cast.

So overall Snowpiercer is definitely worth the wait, though I wouldn’t call it flawless. There’s a certain chaotic madness in Bong’s direction that’s discombobulating, and the emotional involvement with the characters just isn’t as strong as it could be. In the end they’re all still a mystery to me that keep them at a distance from the audience. But what the film does well is that it really makes us ponder on the fascinating, though-provoking ideas whilst we marvel in the visually-arresting cinematography. The contrast between the vast and bright frozen landscape outside the train window and the cramped, crowded and dark interior is striking. The music by Marco Beltrami is also pleasing to the ear and enhances the mood.

The finale is truly something to behold, and the CGI is actually used to a tremendous effect because we’re not so worn-out by it. The lack of a glorified happy-ending is also refreshing, something that would linger long after the end credits roll and inspire countless conversations afterward. If you’re a big sci-fi fan, this one is not to be missed. It’s truly a visceral experience that manages to feel original despite the tried-and-true premise we’ve seen time and again. I’m curious to see what Bong does next, hopefully this won’t be his last collaboration with Hollywood.

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What do you think of Snowpiercer? 

Five for the Fifth: JUNE 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Happy June everybody! So Summer Movie Season is officially underway now, starting with one of the biggest blockbusters of the year X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s one of my most anticipated films of 2014 and I’m glad to say I LOVED it! I reviewed it just before I left for holiday, you can read it here in case you missed it.

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Just looking at June, here are some of the films that are coming out this month:

  • The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)
  • Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13)
  • The Rover (June 13)
  • Jersey Boys (June 20)
  • Snowpiercer (June 27)
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27)

Now, Keith has given you his take on what to flaunt or flush from the Summer movies. As for me, another highly-anticipated movie out this month would be Snowpiercer! Seriously I’ve blogged about that one since August 2013 and it seems like we in the US are the last to catch this apocalypse thriller after the whole editing debacle (heh, thanks Harvey Weinstein!). I can’t freakin’ wait to finally see it and hopefully the Bong Joon-ho’s original version. They just released a new trailer, see below:

So which June movie(s) are you most anticipating?
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2. Yesterday (June 4) is Angelina Jolie‘s birthday, she’s born the same year as moi. The year has been kind to miss Jolie, she seems to get even better with age, looking even more stunning now than ever.

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I first saw her in Gia (1998), as the tragic 70s supermodel Gia Carangi who died of AIDS at the age of 26. It was such a raw performance from Jolie, and she seemed to have embodied the role so well for a while I feared she might’ve ended up as messed up as the character she portrayed. Thankfully that’s not the case and she seemed to have blossomed since then to become not only a good actress but a philanthropist and humanitarian. Jolie is quite a force to be reckoned with in the industry, I admire her even if I don’t always like her movies. I haven’t seen her directorial efforts yet, but of the movies she’s starred in, I think my favorite would be Beyond Borders, heck I even like her as bad ass Lara Croft & an assassin in Wanted. The absolute worst would be The Tourist as she treated the movie like a fashion photoshoot!

What’s your favorite Angelina Jolie’s film (whether it’s the one she directed or star in)?

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3. I just stumbled upon this new poster and trailer for Song of the Sea and I knew I had to share. It’s from the same filmmakers as The Secret of Kells which I adore. It was nominated for an Oscar in 2010, along with Up (which took home the award), Fantastic Mr Fox, Coraline and The Princess and the Frog.

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Saoirse is a child who is the last of the selkies, women in Irish and Scottish legends who transform from seals into people. She escapes from her grandmother’s home to journey to the sea and free fairy creatures trapped in the modern world.

Directed by Tomm Moore, the voice cast includes Brendan Gleeson (who was also in The Secret of Kells), Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Pat Shortt.

The trailer is just so gorgeous, the visuals and animation is so unique and fresh, unlike anything done by Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks. I think it’s more akin to Studio Ghibli’s style.  I like the fantastical and ethereal quality of the story, check out the trailer below:

My question is two fold: Have you seen The Secret of Kells? What do you think about this new movie?


4. Quite a few casting news I read the past couple of days, but I’m focusing the ones with actors re-teaming for a new project. At the top of the list is two Brits I love who’s got legions of fans: Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. Based on this Radiotimes article, the two talented Brits are rumored to star in Journey’s End, based on R.C Sherriff’s 1928 play about a group of officers in the last year of WWI. Cumberbatch is rumored for the role of Captain Stanhope whilst Hiddles could be playing Lieutenant Osborne. I’d love it if the two are collaborating again, as their screen time together is way too short in Spielberg’s War Horse. If this happens, I sure hope there’d be lots of dialog as I can listen to these two for hours!

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Another duo who might be working together again are Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio in a 19th century period thriller The Revenant (per FirstShowing) and Mark Wahlberg with Will Ferrell in what looks to be an R-rated comedy, Daddy’s Home (per Deadline). I love Hardy so any casting news with him sounds good to me, he’d probably steal scenes again from Leo like he did in Inception, ahah. As for Wahlberg/Ferrell, well I loved them both in The Other Guys so yeah, that project sounds like it could be fun.

Which two actors do you wish would collaborate again, either for TV or movies?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Michael from It Rains… You Get Wet.

TCM last night broadcasted something different than their usual fare. Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic of sci-fi/horror, Alien.

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Michael has seen it a half a dozen times but this is one of those movies that seem to retain its impact even with multiple viewings. I saw it on video years ago, but I still remember it being so terrifying. And who could forget THAT stomach-bursting scene with John Hurt?

With that in mind, what was last film, near or far, at home or at the cinema, that caused you to literally toss your popcorn?


Well, that’s it for the JUNE 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks.

Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Musings on Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer & How I hope we get to see the director’s cut for US release

I saw the beautiful International poster of Snowpiercer today, a film I’ve been looking forward to for some time. The film’s been breaking all kinds of box records in Asia, especially in South Korea, Bong Joon-ho‘s native country. Unfortunately for most of us in the West, we probably won’t get to see it until next year… and which version of that film we’d end up seeing is still unknown.

Anyway, before I get to that, here’s the poster and latest International trailer:

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In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.

I’m so stoked for this film as I’m intrigued by the premise and early look of the film. Plus, just look at the cast: Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, as well as some Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung. Chan-wook Park, who directed Stoker, is one of the eight producers in the film. The story is actually based on a French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.

Per THR, Snowpiercer was sold to 167 countries, the most territories a Korean title was sold to prior to its release. The Weinstein Co. (TWC) had acquired the US rights of the film. Now, those who keep up with film news probably have read news about über mogul Harvey Weinstein‘s desire to cut 20 minutes of the film to make it more ‘marketable’ for English speaking territories. This is what Twitch.com reported about a month ago on the matter on the reason for the cuts:

According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns “TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.'”

Oh, and voice overs will reportedly be added to the opening and closing of the film for the US version too [face palm]. Of course, cutting International films for Western release is nothing new, we’ve seen Asian films like John Woo’s Red Cliff and recently, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (check out Steven’s review of both cuts) being edited down for US release. I get it that with Red Cliff, the original film is about four hours long, so the cuts might have been warranted, but in regards to Snowpiercer, cutting 20 minutes from a 126-min film AND adding VO is so unnecessary. If the reason is to make it ‘less dark’ and turning it into a mainstream apocalyptic action movie, that’s just disheartening and insulting!

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Recent Updates from director Bong Joon-ho

JoonhoBongWell, as of late August, the director himself said the cuts would be minor. He’s been promoting the film all over the world and this is what he said during one of the press conference (per Bleeding Cool):

I came here after editing for the American version. I’ve never produced a new version for overseas premieres, and this is the first time I’m making a new version. Weinstein is actually being pretty soft toward editing, probably because it’s noticed how critics have praised the film and know how angry movie fans get over new edits. They even asked me which parts I want to include in the film.

Heh, of course I’d rather the studio would just leave it alone and let the audience see the director’s cut as it’s intended. I really don’t get the notion of tailoring a film for certain audience. I mean, I’m from Indonesia who watch 99% Western movies. I don’t expect ANY film to be tailored to my cultural background, that is just absurd. Besides, it’s not like the premise is really THAT difficult to understand, if anything doomsday is a universal theme, as is class system and the struggle for survival.

Tilda Swinton, an actress whose work I respect, makes her views known about this editing hoopla at the Deauville American Film Festival in France (per The Playlist): “There’s no question that all English speaking audiences deserve to see director Bong’s cut, and we hope very much that we will all see it,”

Asked about the film’s effect, she replied, “Maybe an effect of the film, it just occurred to me, is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. … That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Nice! Thanks you miss Swinton! She’s almost unrecognizable in the trailer, which further proves what a versatile actress she is.

I REALLY hope we’ll get to see the original director’s cut of this. I’d LOVE to see it this year too. So Harvey, would you just release it this Winter, pretty please?


Anyway, what are your thoughts about this film and the whole editing scenario?